Members of Local 42 have voted in new officers to lead the union for the next three years. The new officers are:
President: Steve Cochran
Vice President: David Gleeson
Financial Secretary Treasurer: Roger Dalton
Recording Secretary: Billy Quigg
Trustees: Troy Hunt, Joe Herron, Marc Lemmon
Guide: Frank Stewart
Sergeant at Arms: Bishop Knight
Thanks to all who ran for office and all those who got out and voted, for keeping our union strong. Special thanks to the Local 42 Election Committee for running a smooth election.
A united workforce at Volkswagen’s Bratislava plant won higher wage increases than proposed by management after a six-day strike that concluded Monday, June 26. Reuters news agency reported that the agreement reached by the Modern Union Volkswagen (MOV) and Volkswagen Slovakia (VW SK) resulted in a 4.7% wage increase effective immediately, another 4.7% increase in January 2018, 4.1% in November 2018, and a 500 Euro bonus as of June 1, 2017. Union leader Zoroslav Smolinsky said the combined effect of the increases totals 14.12% with the bonus factored in. Volkswagen’s proposed wage hikes totaled 8.7% before the strike was called June 20.
“We’re ending the strike with a very successful negotiation. We managed to agree on a combined wage hike of 14.12 percent by November 2018, “ Smolinsky said. “I would like to thank all of those who participated in the strike, as well as those who supported it,” he added. “Without their effort, we would not achieve this success.”
For the first time in the 26-year history of Volkswagen in Slovakia, workers at the production plant in Bratislava have gone on strike for better wages. According to the Reuters news agency, production lines stopped on Tuesday, June 20 as about 70 percent of the 12,300 employees stopped work.
In a development that U.S. workers might find surprising, politicians in Slovakia supported the union’s efforts to improve conditions at the plant. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico expressed his support for the striking VW workers, stating “why should a company making one of the highest quality and most luxurious cars with a high labor productivity pay its Slovak workers half or one-third of the amount it pays to the same workers in western Europe?” Volkswagen’s western Europe plants are primarily located in Germany, with others in Spain, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
Reuters reported that production of the Volkswagen Touareg, Audi Q7, Volkswagen up!, Seat Mii, Skoda Citigo and bodies for the Porsche Cayenne had come to a halt. VW workers in Slovakia produced over 388,000 cars in 2016.
Slovakia is located in central Europe, surrounded by Austria, Poland, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. Bratislava, the nation’s capital, is about 500 miles from Wolfsburg, Germany.
Our fight for collective bargaining received a hearing 4,500 miles away and across the Atlantic Ocean at the annual meeting of Volkswagen shareholders held May 10 in Hannover, Germany. Local 42 President Steve Cochran delivered a clear and unequivocal message to the gathering: Volkswagen is operating in violation of its own principles and the demands of its employee unions around the world in failing to meet us at the collective bargaining table.
Cochran’s remarks came in support of a motion made by the union to deny approval of the actions of the Volkswagen board. Of course there was no expectation that the motion would pass since only holders of original stock are entitled to vote at this meeting. A majority of those shares are held by members of the Porsche and Piëch families. But by addressing the shareholders in this meeting and responding to inquiries from the German press, we were able to get the truth out to a wider audience, and more importantly, on Volkswagen’s home turf. Volkswagen believes that they can keep their illegal actions and their alliance with anti-union politicians confined to Tennessee.
As word of our situation receives wider attention among Volkswagen investors and customers, pressure grows on Volkswagen to face its responsibilities. Just as the strategy to stall and delay was misguided in the diesel scandal, it is also a failing strategy in Chattanooga.
Union representatives from Volkswagen plants in Mexico, Poland, Brazil, South Africa and the United Kingdom – as well as a large contingent from Local 42 – met in Chattanooga on April 12 and 13 to exchange information on Volkswagen’s labor practices and establish common ground for collective action. IG Metall, the union for Volkswagen employees in Germany, sent representatives from their national office. The meeting was convened by IndustriALL, the global union of auto workers around the world.
Local 42 Acting President Steve Cochran and Recording Secretary Dave Gleeson shared the history of our plant, the anti-union campaign surrounding the 2014 vote, the successful maintenance vote in December 2015, and Volkswagen’s refusal to negotiate a first collective bargaining agreement. Our overseas guests described their unions’ relationship with the company in their plants, and expressed shock at Volkswagen’s actions. A representative from Brazil said it reminded him of VW’s behavior during that country’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.
Before leaving Chattanooga to return to their plants, the representatives unanimously agreed on a series of actions, including
- Educating VW workers at overseas locations on Volkswagen’s behavior in Chattanooga;
- Raising our dispute with VW plant managers around the world;
- Taking action at IndustriALL’s upcoming Executive Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland;
- Raising VW’s union-busting at the VW Global Works Council meeting in August.
General Motors workers, including those up the road at the Spring Hill plant, ended 2016 with cash in their pockets. As part of their collective bargaining agreement with the company, production and maintenance employees received $500 bonuses in December for meeting quality targets. The cash helped them provide a merry Christmas for their families.
The bonuses were only a small part of the economic gains GM workers received in 2016 under their contract. They started off 2016 with an $11,000 profit sharing check, then received a 4% lump sum bonus, as well as a $1,000 performance bonus in May. Their collective bargaining agreement insures that they get to share in the success they helped their company achieve.
I was privileged to represent our plant at a recent meeting of the Volkswagen Global Group Works Council held December 5-8 in Wolfsburg, Germany. The Works Council is composed of representatives from plants around the world and I provided them an update on the situation at our plant, and particularly about Volkswagen’s broken promises.
I expressed concern about the effect the diesel scandal has had on U.S. sales and the challenge we face in the launch of the Atlas, since we don’t have true co-determination. Some people wanted to believe that the COE policy is a workable substitute, but I pointed out how limited and unreliable that policy is. And Volkswagen’s failure to recognize Local 42 as our representative – as they promised two years ago – means the COE has no teeth.
Coincidentally, the presentation I made to the Global Works Council came exactly one year after maintenance voted by a big margin for Local 42 and collective bargaining. It’s now been 4 months since the NLRB ruled the company is violating the labor law by their failure to begin collective bargaining. I pointed out that Volkswagen’s treatment of employees in Chattanooga has had consequences. When I told them that we had counted 335 production and maintenance employees who have left the company in the last two years, some people didn’t believe me. But I showed them the list of names that Local 42 was aware of who have left, so maybe someone will check it out.
I told them my biggest concern was for the launch of the Atlas, since it is so important to the future of our plant. I said that our input about job design or suggestions about production processes are not taken seriously. Most importantly, I ended by making an open offer to the company to sit down anytime and anywhere to resolve these problems.
The presentation was very well received and many people came up to me and thanked me for the information. Sometimes in these big formal meetings, people get uncomfortable with bad news. But I know you feel like I do, that you can’t fix a problem unless you’re honest about it. I had conversations and shared meals with Volkswagen workers from England, South Africa, Brazil and Sweden, to name the countries I can remember. All of them wanted me to tell you that they support us getting collective bargaining. They promised to communicate with us and I assured them that we will never stop until we get a contract. See photos from the trip here.
Steve Cochran, Acting President, UAW Local 42
Nearly 250 UAW Local 42 members, friends and family members crowded into the IBEW Auditorium on Sunday evening, November 6, for food, fellowship and fun. Region 8 Director Ray Curry and Assistant Director Ron Hendrix joined the festivities. Before the evening was over, numerous firearms and other sporting equipment was raffled off. Local 42 plans to make the Sportsmen’s banquet an annual event. Check out the photo gallery here.
Many of us have observed how differently supposed infractions are dealt with in our plant, depending on the supervisor involved or who it is supposedly committing the infraction. James Robinson, a team member in the Assembly shop, had the courage to stand up for equal treatment when it came to the uniform policy. And as a result of his complaints, James was improperly fired.
James worked with Local 42 to file a charge with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB agreed with our charge and issued a complaint alleging Volkswagen had violated the National Labor Relations Act by treating Brother Robinson unequally. Before the case went to trial, Volkswagen agreed to reinstate him under a new supervisor. Additionally, Volkswagen made James whole with over $19,000 of back pay.
Brother Robinson sent a letter of thanks to Local 42, saying “if we hadn’t formed Local 42 two years ago, the kind of injustice that was done to me would become the norm.” He went on, “one day when we have a collective bargaining agreement, this kind of behavior will be even harder for the company to get away with. But until then, we in Local 42 have to continue to be a watchdog for fairness.”
Congratulations James and welcome back!